The importance of role models for women in STEM
The Dell Technologies STEMAspire Program is back in Scotland this November. Established by Dell Technologies it aims to connect women STEM students to women professionals to give them role models to identify with, helping them to successfully transition to the professional world and start building a successful STEM career. As there isn’t one single route into the Tech World, being able to network with other women in the industry and learn from their journeys and personal experiences can make a significant difference to grow and inspire the future generation of women in Tech!
As a long-term partner of Equate Scotland and an employer committed to ED&I, we took this opportunity to speak with Emma Patrick, Talent Acquisition Analyst at Dell Technologies. She took us through her journey into the Tech world and some of the career paths available to women studying STEM subjects.
How did you get into the Tech industry?
Emma Patrick: I went to university and studied Media & Business because I was not sure what I wanted to do. During my studies, I became more aware of digital media transformation and discovered a bit more about the business side of Technology which increased my interest in the industry. That is how I decided to pursue a career in Tech without really knowing where I was going into. When you are in your last year of studies, you want to find a job that gives you an opportunity to grow and develop your skills. I thought a graduate programme would be a good option for me. Dell Technologies stood out back then – I had heard good things about the company and the office was based in Glasgow… I knew the graduate programme will include some training which was very important to boost my confidence and gain new skills. That is how pretty much how I got into a Technical Support role at Dell. It is not necessarily the type of role most women students go for, but I think it can provide great career opportunities in the long term and a good knowledge base to start your professional career.
What was your experience in this first technical role? Is it what you expected?
EP: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I loved it! I had this misconception that the Tech world was only a male-dominated industry and that everything would be very much a technical focus. But there is so much more to Tech! There are infinite possibilities and career options considering that both the world and the industry are constantly evolving. And this will be even more true in the future as we need to reinvent how technologies will be used to create a positive impact by advancing sustainability, cultivating inclusion, and transforming lives around the world.
I was also lucky enough to have several women in management positions which gave me a sense of belonging and made me feel that I could progress in the company and sector. This is not something I expected when I started but it did contribute to my personal and professional development. And this is one of the reasons why role models are so important for women in STEM!
You are now a Talent Acquisition Analyst, why did you decide to change roles?
EP: A year and a half in the technical support role, my manager would talk to me about career development and areas of interest. Thanks to these conversations with my manager, I realised that I was more of a people person. The part of my job that I enjoyed the most was building relationships with customers and being able to help people. That is when I decided to transfer to the Talent Acquisition team. Coming from Technical support and being involved in the STEMAspire Program, meant that my profile was a good match for that team.
What did you learn in the Technical Support role that you are still using today?
EP: For me the main takeaway was that you don’t need to know everything when you work in a technical role. It is okay not to have the answer straight away. Someone back then said to me “say yes and you will learn how to do it, or you will ask someone else who knows how to”. This was a key learning point for me, and I get the impression that a lot of women (and students in general) can relate to this – especially at the early stage of their careers. The imposter syndrome is real, and you should not ignore it. Instead, acknowledge it and start working on it – the sooner the better! And that is why I think the STEMAspire programme can be a great opportunity for women students to build up their confidence. I would highly recommend it to any woman student who wants to pursue a career in Tech or is not quite sure yet if this is the right career path.
Can you tell us a bit more about the STEMAspire Program and who it is for?
EP: STEMAspire is a Dell Technologies programme that a 3rd or 4th-year university woman STEM student to pair up with a professional working at Dell or working in another Tech company. We have several partners across the industry who support and take part in the programme every year. The programme has both men and women mentors but all our mentors are focused on helping young women into Tech and they all understand the challenges some women face when entering the STEM industry. We are currently launching our 5th year and have over 100 mentees signed up! Most of the students taking part are in their early twenties but we occasionally have more mature students who decided to go back to university at a later stage of their professional career.
Any final thoughts or tips to share with Equate’s women network?
EP: Don’t be afraid to make connections with people in your network or reach out to someone new. Also, don’t overlook roles because you are not sure if you can fit in, or because these roles are not an obvious career choice. In my experience, it is always worth exploring options and trying things out. Finally, I am seeing that applicants often mention in their cover letter that they want to make a positive impact on this world and that their values align with Dell’s – just remember that it does not need to be something big. Sometimes just helping a customer resolve a Tech issue can be quite rewarding and makes you feel that you are contributing.